Today in Sozopol Bulgaria we lazed about most of the day since we were out so late. We did have a bit of a walk about the old city and the sea wall.
A toe in the chilly Black sea.
The gang managed to rouse for food by 430 and we found a really nice place on the water with excellent food. We had muscles and crabs and friend fresh caught ( we saw the guy catch them) blue fish.
It started to pour so we headed inside for coffee and dessert.
It let up to a drizzle for the hike home and we did not get too wet. We are still in a holding pattern as we are waiting to go to Turkey when we know we have out LOI for Turkmenistan as we will pick up these visas in Ankara.
So its a sleep in and back to our favourite place for amazing salads for lunch. We tried to find a spot with the International hockey play off, but the one that said it had the channel did not. No worries we had some rakia and listened to it in Swedish on Orvar’s phone. It was too late for us and we are glad we went to bed to miss Canada’s loss to Sweden in a shoot out.
Trevor needs to get Euros and wants to see about getting a different shock for his bike. He did some adjustments today, but will ride to either Greece or Sofia today.
Today we had a few set back to our quick trip to Istanbul.
The dots are every 10 minutes….
These great people at the Sozopol hotel helped us with everything we needed including telling the garage guy he could not charge us double for an extra night.
We did set out a bit late at 930 and when we were 5 km away Sara realized she could not remember picking the envelope with the Turkish Lira and USD for the insurance at the border. AGH…Dan rode back but did not find it at the hotel….that is because she had put it in a safe place and then promptly forgot where…in the luggage all along. No harm done other than to worry our hosts at the hotel. Luckily we could message Trevor who was still at the hotel to put them at ease.
The plan was to ride to the smaller border almost due south and and the very small roads. We did and rough doesn’t cover it.
We bought gas 1 km before the border as it is pretty expensive in Turkey.
You ride up to the Bulgarian border crossing and they asked for our bike papers and passports for an exit stamp. You then go to customs and repeat.
Then we rode up past the blown out cars to the first booth for Turkey and were waved thru.
Next you get an entry stamp and they wanted to see our e visas, passports, green cards, and bike registration.
They then told us we needed to buy insurance, which we already knew as our green card does not work here. We walked over to the insurance office and he took down all Orvar’s information and said he wanted 135 Euros for each of us. This is a scam as the rate as of a month ago was 30. He refused to budge. We refused to be scammed, but this meant getting out of Turkey and back into Bulgaria and then a 360 km detour to the main crossing. So back to customs at 2 different windows and then and exit passport stamp. The customs guys handed back the passports and said “Im sorry” even he knew it was a scam, but could do nothing. We then drove back to the Bulgarian border, passed thru decontamination, which appears to be free for bikes but you must give your plate number, and did then did all the previous in reverse.
We started on the route 9 at 1 pm and the GPS said there was a cut off road that turned out to be a muddy dirt road. This meant essentially a complete back track to the main road thru Burgas (40 km before our starting point at Sozopol). Once there we got on the A1, but took a cross road on the 55 to arrive at the border of Turkey again today.
The line of trucks started 20 km away it was insane.
We road past all of them and there were only about 5 cars in front of us at Bulgarian passport control. We got our exit stamp and review by customs. Funny they did not even comment on the fact that we had done this earlier today.
From here you ride to the Turkish crossing where there seems to be about 20 lines, but only one was open. Luckily there was only 5 cars ahead of us again. We got another entry stamp and they wanted to see the bike papers, e visa, and green cards. We moved to the next window and they told to go to “D3”, which is an area about 500 m away and clearly makes with a Huge D3 sign. This was where we got our insurance. They were very friendly, but spoke little English. The guy entered our bike models into the computer and lo and behold the rate of ….29 Euros for the month. After you get your insurance paper you go to the next window for a passport stamp. There was a bit of an issue with our ICBC documents since in BC the insurance and title of registration are on one paper. Also unlike Europe this is very unofficial looking document. There was much discussion among all the agents, but finally they gave us our stamp. From here you return to the border and have “baggage inspection”. This consisted of the guy asking us to open everything, we open only the panniers. He did not even look and then said “thats ok”. Then he wanted to know if were going to Georgia and said that we had to go to Iran as it was so amazing”.
We left the border this time at 630 pm and we had 250 km to go.
We arrived to the main highway, which is a toll road, but they use auto tolling here and there are no gates or pay stations. They do not have Vignettes either. after the first “toll” crossing we stopped toast the police how we could pay and they said just drive thru with the bikes. Technically all vehicles must pay even bikes, but the plate cameras are forward only. This meant we could do the 120 limit on the E 80 instead of the smaller D100. We had a 10 min break about 830 to lube th chains, but pressed on to minimize the riding in the dark. We had about 30 min of that, which at speed with traffic in the last 30 km was a bit hairy. The locals drive fast, veer over many lanes, and merge at very high speed onto the road and often across multiple lanes. They will cut between you from the left to take the right exit. Scary. The hotel we had chosen was located on the tram and metro lines, but also very close to the exit from the highway. We finally arrived at 915 pm. About 3 minutes later Orvar walked up with a bag with cold beers. We walked up the road from some traditional Turkish food. We were so tired we did not even wake up when the 430 call to prayer
Meanwhile ‘The Swede” had made a call to Sweden at 1 pm to add Turkey to his green card for free. He learned this from 2 German guys we met at the first crossing. Then he left us at Burgas and went back to Sozopol to the hotel where he found a shop with green paper and they printed off his “ Green” card. He then did not want to chance the closest border again with the scam insurance guy so he took the lower crossroad to the middle border crossing. His spent more time getting his stuff, but had a much shorter distance to travel and actually arrived to Istanbul 20 minutes before us. He had gone for beers at the store as he had checked our Spot and saw we were nearly there!!
Meanwhile Trevor had stayed at the hotel in Sozopol until 11. He then headed out on the road to Burgas and then to the highway. His plan was to go to Plovdiv and see if Assen had been able to contact the shock guys about how long it might take to get a new spring. It would be 4-5 days and so instead of going back to Sofia he headed to Greece. He needed to withdraw Euros for 2 days to stock up for the trip east. He was also checking our spot and was shocked to see we were actually an hour behind him.
We only had one day here and there is a lot to see. We bought an Istanbulkart, which you can load up and use for multiple people. In the end we spent 4 dollars each all day. We caught the tram down to the old city and visited the Blue Mosque. Here you must enter thru the visitor gate and be properly dressed. I was let in wearing pants as they are loose and my head scarf. Girls in jeans or tight clothes had to borrow skirts or dresses with attached scarfs.
“The cascading domes and six slender minarets of the Sultanahmet Mosque (or “Blue Mosque”) dominate the skyline. In the 17th century, Sultan Ahmet I wished to build an Islamic place of worship that would be even better than the Hagia Sophia, and the mosque named for him is the result. The two great architectural achievements now stand next to each other in Istanbul’s main square.
The Blue Mosque was built near the Hagia Sophia, over the site of the ancient hippodrome and Byzantine imperial palace. Construction work began in 1609 and took seven years.
Inside, the high ceiling is lined with the 20,000 blue tiles that give the mosque its popular name. Fine examples of 16th-century Iznik design, the oldest tiles feature flowers, trees and abstract patterns. The overall effect is one of the most beautiful sights in Istanbul.”
Cute ladies from China we met on the plaza.
Next we walked across the square to the Hagia Sofia, which is now a museum.
“The Church of the Holy Wisdom, known as Hagia Sophia or Aya Sofya, is a former Byzantine church and former Ottoman mosque in Istanbul. Now a museum, Hagia Sophia is universally acknowledged as one of the great buildings of the world.
Unfortunately nothing remains of the original Hagia Sophia, which was built on this site in the fourth century by Constantine the Great who was the first Christian emperor and the founder of the city of Constantinople.
Following the destruction of Constantine’s church, a second was built by his son Constantius and the emperor Theodosius the Great. This second church was burned down during the Nika riots of 532, though fragments of it have been excavated and can be seen today.
Hagia Sophia was rebuilt in her present form between 532 and 537 under the personal supervision of Emperor Justinian I. It is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture, rich with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings. After completion, Justinian is said to have exclaimed, “Solomon, I have outdone thee!”.
For over 900 years the Hagia Sophia was the seat of the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople. In 1204 the cathedral was ruthlessly attacked, desecrated and plundered by the Crusaders. This event cemented the division of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches that had begun with the Great Schism of 1054. It also means that most of Hagia Sophia’s riches can be seen today not in Istanbul, but in the treasury of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.
Despite this violent setback, Hagia Sophia remained a functioning church until May 29, 1453, when Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror entered triumphantly into the city of Constantinople. He was amazed at the beauty of the Hagia Sophia and immediately converted it into his imperial mosque.”
Putting your hand here and making a circle is said to have healing powers.
The best views are from the upper galleries.
They were setting up for some “world archery competition”.
From here we decided the city is best seen from the water and we grabbed a ferry from Eminonu to Uskudar and then another to Besiktas. But we had to stop for some tea and biscuits at the ferry dock.
The bridge between Europe and Asia that we will cross tomorrow!!!
Then we wandered up and down the steep hills to Taksim square, bought some fancy Turkish delight, had coffee with some a very nice family from Saudi and then grabbed the tram back to the hotel.
Meanwhile Trevor was making his way to the Greece-Turkish border and then onto Istanbul. He arrived just before we returned to the hotel. and in time for an amazing dinner of grilled meats on skewers!